If you have bad news to drop, the time to do it is the Friday before a holiday weekend. Ole Miss took advantage of this PR pro tip yesterday when releasing the NCAA's 52 page notice of allegations and their response, which is nearly three times as long. You could read the whole thing, or you could allow me to summarize the high points, among them:
- During the summer of 2014 and 2015 an Ole Miss booster provided two football players with loaner cars and cash. Connecting the dots regarding the makes of the vehicles it's pretty clear that one of these players was Laremy Tunsil. It appears that after the Ole Miss compliance staff got wind of Tunsil's penchant for free cars, and allegedly warned him against it, Tunsil went back to the same dealership several more times for the kind of deal your average Ole Miss student just couldn't get. This indicates that either a) he wasn't really told not to do that, or b) he really just didn't give a damn.
- Also during the summer of 2015 a football player purchased a Dodge Charger from what appears to be the same booster, putting down a $3000 down payment. Except that the down payment existed only on paper. It looks like this is also Tunsil.
- Assistant Chris Kiffin (yes, Lane's brother) figures in three violations, including providing impermissible benefits to the family of a recruit (apparently also Tunsil) during his official visit to Ole Miss in 2013. Kiffin also allowed a player to stay at his place for a couple of nights, which is a level III violation (very minor compared to most of the other shenanigans in the NOA). Kiffin also had impermissible in person contact with a recruit during the summer of 2014.
- During 2012 and 2013 assistant Maurice Harris facilitated contact between a recruit and a booster who paid the recruit's cell phone bill, his mother's telephone bill, and arranged various other accomodations.
- Twenty-eight allegations are raised, and thirteen of them involve Ole Miss football. Therefore the off-the-record statements from various sources over the past few months that a "majority" of the allegations weren't football-related is technically true, but only barely.
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) February 1, 2013
Of course Hugh Freeze didn't say anything untruthful in this now-famous tweet. But it's pretty clear now that lots of folks had facts about violations by Ole Miss. Freeze's blustering challenge now looks like the kind of disingenuous shrieking one hears from scandal-fighting politicians and corporate executives.
Former coach Houston Nutt didn't get off scott-free, either. Two of his assistants, Chris Vaughn and David Saunders, are charged with extremely serious misconduct related to fraudulent ACT scores used to help three Ole Miss recruits become eligible. Saunders is accused of steering the recruits to take the ACT at a Mississippi high school at which he'd arranged for a test administrator to alter their score sheets. This is actually probably the most serious allegation in the whole bunch, a surefire level I offense that could get a staffer blackballed for the remainder of his coaching career. One could argue that if Nutt really does feel "vindicated" by this report he should bone up on what the word "vindication" means.
Still, nine of the thirteen football-related infractions occurred during Freeze's tenure, and they seem to have begun pretty soon after Freeze became the head coach in Oxford. Freeze's steadfast denials and withering retorts regarding these allegations now ring very, very hollow. It's also worth noting that this report doesn't even include the latest Tunsil allegations which became public on NFL draft night.
It's no longer a question of whether Ole Miss's football program under Freeze is "dirty." Ole Miss's response essentially admits it has been. The Rebels' play is to ask the NCAA to find that a reduction of 11 scholarships, cutting ties with involved boosters, and admonishing some coaches is enough to make up for it.